Thursday, February 11, 2010

Interview with an Agent: Sara Megibow

So excited to share today’s interview with you, featuring Sara Megibow of Nelson Literary Agency. I’ll see you on the other side.

KV: How did you get into agenting?

SM: Let's see--I worked as the literary assistant here at Nelson Literary Agency for four years before becoming an agent. My job during that time was to read all the query letters, sample pages and full manuscripts that came in to the agency. I marked "YES" on anything that I thought Kristin should read and passed on the ones that weren't quite right for us. That's how we found Jamie Ford (New York Times Bestselling author of HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET) and Sherry Thomas (PW Best Book of 2008 for PRIVATE ARRANGEMENTS).

I started taking on my own clients last year and am now in the process of shopping these manuscripts to publishing houses myself.


KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? Are you more brainstormer, more editor, more business manager--or all of the above?

SM: Nelson Literary Agency tends to rely on the team approach in terms of covering all these bases. For example, we have a marketing director on staff here at NLA (Lindsay Mergens out of our NY office), so I rely on her expertise for book promotions. We definitely do work on editing manuscripts before submitting them to editors, but I find that I tend to leave a lot of space for the writers to have their own feedback in this process. Overall, my personal philosophy tends to be "pick projects that I REALLY, REALLY love" and that way I feel great about fighting for them on everything from finding a great editor to negotiating a great contract.

KV: What client work do you have coming out soon? What drew you to those writers and/or projects?

SM: I have five clients, all new. They are all out on submission right now and I'm very excited to find out where they end up being published. I will have updates listed on my Publishers Marketplace site (www.publishersmarketplace.com/members/SaraMegibow).

As to what drew me to these projects--overall, it was a combination of superior writing and unique concept in each case. I read 30-40,000 query letters each year and 1200-1500 sample pages. I can honestly say that these were the best five projects that I saw in 2009 and I am so excited to be working with each of these writers.


KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

SM: I represent romance (all subgenres except category romance and inspirational), science fiction, fantasy, young adult, middle grade, commercial fiction, women's fiction including chick lit and literary fiction with a commercial bent.

I don't represent horror, thrillers, mysteries, self help books (or any kind of nonfiction really), gift books or illustrated children's books.

KV: What query pet peeves should writers avoid when querying you?

SM: I'm not overly picky in a query letter. Basically, any well-written query letter for a project in a genre that we represent will get a fair read. I don't prefer sample pages or synopses in the query. Also, I don't click through on weblinks and don't open attachments, so those can be left off. Personally, I don't need quotes ("my aunt Martha is a published author and she says this is a great book") and I don't need market statistics ("romance is a huge genre and I know women are clamoring for more vampire romance"). Other than that, I DO look for a query letter to be short and to sound like the back cover of a novel. We have resources listed on our website (I like to recommend WEbook.com and evileditor.blogspot.com) and we have sample query letters posted there too (www.nelsonagency.com/faq.html#7).

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now?

SM: I would love to sign my first romance author (I love everything by Pamela Clare and Sherry Thomas). Also, my favorite genre of all time is probably fantasy so I would love to see more well-written fantasy queries. Finally, I would love to read (and to rep) more multicultural fiction--both for adults and young readers.

Thanks again, Ms. Megibow, for these insights. And for anyone interested in querying her, you may send a one-page e-mail query, with no attachments or sample pages, to query@nelsonagency.com. Also, just to ensure your e-mail successfully navigates their spam-detecting force field, include the word query and the title of your work in the subject line.

P.S. Don’t forget to include any questions you might have for agents in the comments below. See, I’m serious about this whole I’m-gonna-interview-me-some-agents thing, so you should get in on this, too. I can’t guarantee every question will make it into the interview (this isn’t a Supreme Court nomination hearing, for one thing, and for another, I need to maintain SOME amount of control), but I’d love to get your feedback. Power to the people--or at least the ones who read this blog:)

12 comments:

bclement412 said...

FANTASTIC interview!

Myrna Foster said...

Oh, thank you, Krista! Between the two of you, this interview answered all of my questions. Now I just have to make sure I have a "well-written fantasy query."

Did you see that Kristin is asking for queries?

Kelly Bryson said...

OOh! She's on the 'potential agent list' now. Thanks for the info. -Kelly

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

Oh, yeah, Myrna, I saw Kristin's call for queries, and gnashed my teeth that Bob is still months, MONTHS - maybe years, at this rate - away from being ready:)

(And I queried Ms. Megibow back in June - in the first batch of queries I sent - about the project I've been hawking. Form rejection. But that's querying. With any luck, Bob will be just what she's always wanted... :) )

Myrna Foster said...

I gave you an award, if you want it.

I haven't had a chance to talk to Ben about dinner, but he's going to be trapped in a car with me for about five hours tomorrow.

Sandrine Thomas said...

I'm curious about your desire for multicultural fiction: does multicultural genre fiction fall under this umbrella as well? Also, despite current industry practices, I would like my prospective agent to treat my submissions like any other romance author they acquire--meaning, I would like my agent to submit my work to all romance houses, not immediately shopping my work to AA imprints only. I am arrogant enough to want to break the pattern established in the publishing industry and I would like an agent who shares that goal.

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

Sandrine, I can't answer for Ms. Megibow, of course, but judging from the genres she represents, I'd think she'd be especially interested in multicultural genre fiction (since she already wants genre fiction).

Thanks for stopping by!

Holly said...

Hi, Krista. Great interview! I'm putting Ms. Megibow on my list of agents to query.

Here's a genre question if you can find a way to work it into a future interview.

What are some of the differences between science fiction and urban fantasy? I'm asking because the urban fantasy tag seems more popular right now.

I understand science fiction falls into two camps. "Hard" science fiction has the techy stuff and the scientific theories, while "soft" science fiction is more about relationships.

If you have a story that takes place completely in a well-known city on Earth, if it has a UFO and aliens it's science fiction, and the same story is urban fantasy if it has werewolves and vampires.

Do the creatures lock in the genre if everything else is the same?

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

Good question, Holly. Having read your query over on Nathan's forums, I'd definitely go with science fiction, but that's just because, as you mentioned, aliens/UFOs always seem to equal science fiction.

I'm not sure how to work this question into an interview because it's so genre-specific, but if an agent mentions he/she rep those genres, and then opens him- or herself up to follow-up questions, I'll bring it up.

Jess of All Trades said...

Thank you so so much for this, and for posting the link on querytracker! Ms. Megibow is in my Top 2 for the agents I'm going to query first (fingers crossed), so this is perfectly timed and helpful.

Krista V. (the former Krista G.) said...

Thanks for stopping by, Jess of All Trades. Glad to be of service.

Kristi said...

I recently saw Kristin Nelson speak at a conference -- anyone would be super lucky to have either of these ladies as their agent! Thanks for a great interview. :)